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What caused the Early Silurian change from mafic to silicic (S-type) magmatism in the eastern Lachlan Fold Belt?

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One of the most significant, but poorly understood, tectonic events in the east Lachlan Fold Belt is that which caused the shift from mafic, mantle‐derived calc‐alkaline/shoshonitic volcanism in the Late Ordovician to silicic (S‐type) plutonism and volcanism in the late Early Silurian. We suggest that this chemical/isotopic shift required major changes in crustal architecture, but not tectonic setting, and simply involved ongoing subduction‐related magmatism following burial of the pre‐existing, active intraoceanic arc by overthrusting Ordovician sediments during Late Ordovician — Early Silurian (pre‐Benambran) deformation, associated with regional northeast‐southwest shortening. A review of ‘type' Benambran deformation from the type area (central Lachlan Fold Belt) shows that it is constrained to a north‐northwest‐trending belt at ca 430 Ma (late Early Silurian), associated with high‐grade metamorphism and S‐type granite generation. Similar features were associated with ca 430 Ma deformation in east Lachlan Fold Belt, highlighted by the Cooma Complex, and formed within a separate north‐trending belt that included the S‐type Kosciuszko, Murrumbidgee, Young and Wyangala Batholiths. As Ordovician turbidites were partially melted at ca 430 Ma, they must have been buried already to ∼20 km before the ‘type' Benambran deformation. We suggest that this burial occurred during earlier northeast‐southwest shortening associated with regional oblique folds and thrusts, loosely referred to previously as latitudinal or east‐west structures. This event also caused the earliest Silurian uplift in the central Lachlan Fold Belt (Benambran highlands), which pre‐dated the ‘type' Benambran deformation and is constrained as latest Ordovician — earliest Silurian ( ca 450–440 Ma) in age. The south‐ to southwest‐verging, earliest Silurian folds and thrusts in the Tabberabbera Zone are considered to be associated with these early oblique structures, although similar deformation in that zone probably continued into the Devonian. We term these ‘pre'‐ and ‘type'‐Benambran events as ‘early' and ‘late' for historical reasons, although we do not consider that they are necessarily related. Heat‐flow modelling suggests that burial of ‘average' Ordovician turbidites during early Benambran deformation at 450–440 Ma, to form a 30 km‐thick crustal pile, cannot provide sufficient heat to induce mid‐crustal melting at ca 430 Ma by internal heat generation alone. An external, mantle heat source is required, best illustrated by the mafic ca 430 Ma, Micalong Swamp Igneous Complex in the S‐type Young Batholith. Modern heat‐flow constraints also indicate that the lower crust cannot be felsic and, along with petrological evidence, appears to preclude older continental ‘basement terranes' as sources for the S‐type granites. Restriction of the S‐type batholiths into two discrete, oblique, linear belts in the central and east Lachlan Fold Belt supports a model of separate magmatic arc/subduction zone complexes, consistent with the existence of adjacent, structurally imbricated turbidite zones with opposite tectonic vergence, inferred by other workers to be independent accretionary prisms. Arc magmas associated with this ‘double convergent' subduction system in the east Lachlan Fold Belt were heavily contaminated by Ordovician sediment, recently buried during the early Benambran deformation, causing the shift from mafic to silicic (S‐type) magmatism. In contrast, the central Lachlan Fold Belt magmatic arc, represented by the Wagga‐Omeo Zone, only began in the Early Silurian in response to subduction associated with the early Benambran northeast‐southwest shortening. The model requires that the S‐type and subsequent I‐type (Late Silurian — Devonian) granites of the Lachlan Fold Belt were associated with ongoing, subduction‐related tectonic activity.
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Keywords: Benambran; S‐type granite; basement terranes; heat flow; magmatic arcs; subduction

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geology, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW 2308, Australia 2: Australian Geodynamics CRC, CSIRO Exploration and Mining, Private Bag, PO Wembley, WA 6014, Australia

Publication date: February 1, 2001

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